South Africa have found their strongest XI and are peaking at the right stage of the tournament.
So much will be made about the result (South Africa’s first win in a World Cup play-off), and rightly so. It’s a major achievement in isolation, and yet, the superb performance against Sri Lanka also gave an idea of what we can expect in the next round. I firmly believe that the Proteas will go into the semi-final as favourites.
One would think that the team for the penultimate game picks itself. Quinton de Kock took his opportunity against Sri Lanka, and must be backed to open at Eden Park on Tuesday. De Kock played confidently at the SCG, like a man in form. I’m glad the debate has been put to bed, De Kock should go into the next game, and possibly a final, as Hashim Amla’s preferred opening partner, as well as the designated wicketkeeper.
Kyle Abbott should also be assured of his place. The spinners have received much of the credit for the performance in the quarter-final, but I feel it was the seamers who deserve the bulk of the praise. It was Dale Steyn, Abbott, and Morné Morkel who generated the early pressure. Imran Tahir continues to be a factor at this tournament with his variations, and JP Duminy has done a job as I knew he would. But their success needs to be viewed in context.
The South African seamers were brilliant at the SCG. They set the platform for Tahir and Duminy to excel. When Sri Lanka failed to score sufficient runs against that seam bowling trio, they needed to target South Africa’s fifth bowler. While this would have been the plan going into the game, the pressure exerted by Steyn, Abbott, and Morkel meant that Sri Lanka needed to take even more chances against the likes of Duminy.
The conditions at Eden Park will be different to SCG, but not as different as some have suggested. I would hope that South Africa back the same bowling unit to do the job in the semi-final. The tracks in New Zealand haven’t been as low and slow as in recent years, and there is something in it for the quick bowlers. That formidable trio of South African seam bowlers will have key role to play.
I expect that New Zealand will advance to the semi-final. Their quick bowlers have done well, especially in these conditions, and will have the advantage of playing this knockout game at home. And yet, I would say that South Africa are still the favourites.
We witnessed a great team performance at the SCG. While there was a notable lift in skill and accuracy levels, there was also a lift in intensity. The spirit and determination of the side was patent.
South Africa boasts a strong batting lineup with seven specialist batsmen, and their bowlers have done well in recent matches. AB de Villiers has done a fine job as captain. After a shaky start to the tournament, things are starting to come right.
From what I’ve read, the Proteas are in a good space ahead of the semi-final. De Villiers has been very positive, and I can tell that he is not saying South Africa has a chance just for the sake of it. He truly believes this team can win on Tuesday, and that they won’t choke.
I feel the same way.
Graeme Pollock played 23 Tests for South Africa, scoring 2256 runs at an average (60.97) that remains second only to Don Bradman’s. He was voted South Africa’s Player of the 20th century in 1999, and inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009.
Due to a series of health problems that have impacted on his financial position, Pollock is now reaching out to fans in hope of some support. If you are able to contribute to his Trust in any way, please do not hesitate to call his agent Basil O’Hagan on 083 4124459 or make a deposit, however small, to the following Trust Fund.
Name of Account Holder: Rudolf Buys & Associates Trust
Name of Bank: Standard Bank
Account Number: 281 464 359
Branch: Fourways Crossing
Branch Code: 009 953
Type of Account: Trust Account
Ref: Mr G Pollock